Audiences for classical music

September 29, 2009

Last weekend the Newport Symphony had a sold-out concert.  Not only that, we had lots of fun, making music with friends.  So the question is:  why is Newport able to do this, when it doesn’t seem to be a possibility in Portland?  Newport has a population of only about 10,000.  There is no music reviewer who writes for a newspaper or even a music blog (as sometimes happens for Columbia Symphony in Portland).

The audience in Newport is fairly gray — but I don’t think we should despair about that, because there’s a constant new supply of retirees moving into the community.  And with the NOAA West Coast headquarters moving to town, there should be a new supply of younger educated folks that might be interested in “culture”.  I think part of Newport’s success lies in the fact that we’re the only game in town.  We have a charismatic, friendly conductor with a world-class musical talent.

My one or two readers out there should come out to Newport and see what’s happening!  (I actually had a friend say he has read this blog — Amazing!)


One Response to “Audiences for classical music”

  1. Ian said

    I don’t think you can discount the “Now that we’re retired…” rationale. “Now that we’re retired, we have time to go see concerts!” I’d also believe the “Only game in town” argument, and in truth, it’s probably a combination of factors.

    One of the problems theater in Seattle is perpetually facing is how to get audiences in the door. I’ve been interested to see how the days of the week play a role: Saturdays are the best days, not surprisingly, with Friday audiences usually fuller than Thursdays, but commonly lower energy, perhaps because everyone’s ready for the weekend but still laggy from that last day of work.

    Content obviously has something to do with it, too. Unsurprisingly, high-art theater has a terrible time getting enough audience to be worth putting on a show, while pandering spectacle usually packs them in. There’s a production of “The Beginning of the World and Other Business” at a local theater (which includes about 30 minutes during which the actors are all completely nude, being in the garden of Eden), and they’re turning people away from most performances.

    I’m sure symphonic performances get more audience when there’s a recognizable name on the poster. The obvious question is, to what extent do you compromise your artistic desire to fill seats?

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